Sununu Talks Cannabis, Hospital Funding, Transgender Bills and Death With Dignity

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Gov. Chris Sununu held a press availability Wednesday with NHPR's Todd Bookman, NH Bulletin's Ethan Dewitt and the Union Leader's Kevin Landrigan and WMUR.'s Paula Tracy took the photo.


CONCORD – Lashing out at some hospital executives who have criticized his plan to redistribute millions in federal funding away from them to community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment next year, Gov. Chris Sununu said they are not very community-minded in finding a solution to the mental health crisis.

In a press briefing Wednesday, the Republican governor who is not running for re-election, also said the northern border crisis is expanding, the state has an opportunity to do cannabis legislation right, doubts an assisted suicide bill will reach his desk and would not commit to any LGBTQ+ bills but would use “fairness and safety” as the most important factors.

He criticized potential Republican vice presidential picks for showing up in a Manhattan court to support former President Donald Trump as being “in it for themselves” and not for the country, and said he is not inclined to support any election law changes unless there is a serious problem that has been outlined to him by Secretary of State David Scanlan, and right now, there are no serious issues.

He also said there is little federal American Rescue Plan Act funds left to be reallocated and would support an effort to expand eligibility for some in need of crop loss support.

This week, representatives for 10 of the state’s more than 20 hospitals criticized Sununu for his plans to redistribute some care reimbursements away from them to more community-based efforts to provide substance misuse treatment next year.

At a public hearing in the state Senate on that plan, Sununu said his would cap 91 percent of Medicaid reimbursement to the hospitals with the other 9 percent going to community health centers, mental health centers, and substance abuse disorder programs.

A lawyer representing the New Hampshire Hospital Association said the state ranks among the lowest in the nation for treatment of reimbursement.

In July, 2023, the state and the NH hospital association came to an agreement on the so-called “Emergency Room Boarding crisis” lawsuit which the hospital association had brought, accusing the state of not providing enough services and bed space at mental hospitals to deal with those in crisis, forcing patients to stay in a hospital emergency room until a psychiatric bed could be found.

The state is opening up new beds and locations for treatment but is struggling to find adequate staffing, slowing the process.


Sununu criticized some potential candidates for the position of Vice President in a second Trump administration who have been in court this week in support of Former President Donald Trump, and issuing messages on social media as his proxy to criticize former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

Ohio Sen. JD Vance is among a few who have been in the criminal trial this week related to accusations about hush money payments to a porn star.

“It’s about the loyalty and the showmanship of the moment as opposed to understanding that it is a hard job…when you are talking about the presidency, the vice presidency, those are massive responsibilities. Only the best of the best should really be rising to the top to grab it,” Sununu said.

“There is a lot of grandstanding and showmanship and…my concerns are that those people are doing it for the wrong reasons” and not in support of the country.

He said he has not been asked to campaign with Trump yet, and his focus will be on New Hampshire campaigns up and down the ticket and supporting Republicans.

“That is far more important” than anything else. “So the media likes to talk about the presidency but the impact on citizens definitely happens at the state level and that is where all my efforts will be,” Sununu said.

Sununu is not running for re-election.


The governor was asked about the various bill versions to get to legal weed sales for adults. They are still being hashed out in the legislature with licensee versus franchise models being debated.

He said the state has a unique opportunity to “get it right” because of the state’s controlled Liquor Commission which could act unlike any of the more than 20 other states in terms of control.

Asked if there were problems with the franchise model where every aspect would be controlled by the state the governor said no, “that is an opportunity.”

“Other states that don’t control it like that have really screwed up their process. Their systems don’t work for a variety of reasons. Local communities are frustrated with having pot shops on every corner. “So that is the opportunity that we have over other states in that the state would control all aspects of marketing, location and retail sales.”

He said he would be “OK” with a model whereby state employees operate and control the sales as long as all the other aspects of control are maintained by the state.


Sununu said any ARPA money that was unspent in the programs where it was originally allocated are being reallocated and that is what is now being seen going to the legislative fiscal committee.

“There may be some money leftover between now and August as well but that will really probably be the last chance we have to reallocate anything through fiscal, a contracting process that has to be completed by very late this year. So we may have one more round of opportunity to go to Fiscal (committee) with some ARPA money, really not sure how much it will be. It could be a couple million dollars,” Sununu said.

Asked if he is disappointed that only $1.6 million of the $8 million allocated through ARPA for crop loss has been allocated with the deadline Wednesday to apply, the governor said he is not concerned and that it was handled the right way by Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets and Food Shawn Jasper who was largely criticized for the roll out by farmers.

“We made sure that those who were in most need were the first at the trough and we were not sure how big that need was going to be. So it is the absolute right thing to do not just let everybody in the door who has a ‘want’ but actually make sure that you are prioritizing the need,” he said. “If we can do a second round for folks that weren’t as significantly impacted financially but did have additional crop losses then I am going to work with the commissioner to make sure we can do it.”

Jasper told the Executive Council he might look to expand eligibility for a second round if there is money left unallocated.


A bill which would close a loophole in New Hampshire gun sales to notify agents that a person buying a weapon has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility is before the legislature and the governor said it would be a missed opportunity to do the right thing and close that loop, and if it is not closed with legislation this year, he said he hoped it would be successful next year, though he will not be governor. He is not seeking re-election.

The bill is named for the late Bradley Haas, an unarmed security guard who died at work last November when a former resident of the state’s psychiatric hospital murdered him in the lobby.

“I think it is an important loophole to close,” Sununu said maintaining that there are one or two groups that have “scared people into not doing it” referring to passing the legislation.


Sununu said there is evidence that the northern border of the United States is increasingly being used for illegal immigration and maintained his support for added state resources at the state’s border.

“Clearly there is a very significant issue at the northern border, clearly it is a growing issue at the northern border and clearly anyone that was trying to thwart our efforts to provide support and resources to that issue have been proven outlandishly wrong. It is them, that side that is clearly trying to play a political game.”

He was presented a report indicating there has been an increase in illegal attempted crossings in the Swanton Sector from New York to Maine.

New Hampshire has only 58 miles of border and no statistics solely for that area of the Swanton sector but the governor has supported more than $1.5 million for a coalition of law enforcement to help with federal efforts there, which has been criticized as a waste.

“It’s a huge issue. It absolutely is. For the ACLU to get involved and try to play politics when we are talking about the security of this country is silly at this point.”

Sununu said this coalition can’t make arrests for federal crimes but can provide support, similar to that provided in Texas where the National Guard has been called up by Sununu. That group is expected to return in mid-June and he said it is going “phenomenally.”

The governor said it is important for New Hampshire to say its border is not a place of refuge for illegals.

“I wish other states around us would take it seriously. But the fact that they don’t, the fact they go light hearted on it, the fact that they want to appease some sort of political base of theirs only incentivizes more crossings by these folks that are breaking the law,” Sununu said.


Assisted suicide legislation may be running into trouble with passage, the governor said, but one thing about the issue is that it is “absolutely nonpartisan.”

He said all those voices should be heard in consideration with passing a good law.

“I don’t know if that bill is going to get here and I don’t know ultimately what it is going to look like,” he said. He said it has been run “quasi-successfully” in a lot of other states, and Vermont has a program he has looked at.


Asked again where he will fall on a handful of transgender bills involving teens wending their way through the legislature particularly HB 1205 which would limit girls public school sports to those whose birth certificates show they were female, Sununu said the metric he will focus on is fairness and safety and that voices on this are being heard not just here in New Hampshire but nationally.

“It’s a matter of the sport itself, right? What other physical advantages are there…and what other safety issues might there be? There are a lot of sports that can be co-ed very easily that have traditionally been done with no problems because there aren’t issues of fairness and safety. Those issues don’t come into play but I believe the legislation, my understanding, talks about where there are those types of concerns. I don’t know the wording exactly but I believe it does take that under consideration which I believe would be the right path,” Sununu said.

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